Mmm, chili. Nothing warms you up on a cold day better than a hearty helping of the spicy concoction. It’s a fall and winter favorite and a popular dish at more than a few tailgates during football season. It inspires festivals like the annual Lupus Chili Fest just across the river in Lupus, and let’s not forget the competitive nature that chili arouses in its aficionados; you’ll find chili cook-offs all across the country, including Columbia’s own Rootin’ Tootin’ Chili Cookoff every February.
Chili is an easy one-pot dish that can be made on the stovetop or in a slow cooker. For starters, there’s always classic chili con carne, made with red kidney beans, beef, onion, chilies, spices, tomatoes and tomato sauce or paste. You can also enjoy white bean, chicken and vegetarian or vegan varieties. No matter what you prefer, chili makes a satisfying meal.
For many Columbians, the favorite local spot to get their chili fix is right at home. In the mood for an outside-the-house experience? Check out these chili hotspots.
Venerable Booches Billiards (110 S. Ninth St.) is the hands-down favorite for many Columbians, especially when the chili is served with cheese and corn chips, or alongside one of Booches’ famous burgers. In fact, chili and a burger is one of the most popular items on the Booches menu. Co-owner Rick Robertson says he isn’t sure what’s behind the local love for Booches’ chili, but he adds that it’s made fresh every day with a lot of love.
Another popular chili stronghold is CoMo Smoke and Fire (4600 Paris Road, Suite 102). CoMo Smoke and Fire offers chili made with three kinds of beans, beef and veggies in a thick tomato sauce.
Stadium Grill (1219 Fellows Place) serves heaping bowls of chili with just a bit of sweetness, because it’s made with the addition of barbecue sauce.
For a vegetarian option, hit Main Squeeze (28 S. Ninth St.). The downtown eatery serves a special organic soul-food chili.
Several restaurants in town — including Café Berlin (220 N. 10th St.), Broadway Brewery (816 E. Broadway), and Flat Branch Pub & Brewing (115 S. Fifth St.) — don’t feature chili as a regular menu item but offer it occasionally as a special.
Next time you have a hankering for chili, give these insider favorites a try. You might find a new fave away from hearth and home.